I don’t really know why I left England. Maybe this book will help me realize why. Maybe by the end of it, I’ll understand it all.


Of course I know why I left. I was running away. Summer 1996 in London was an amazing time and I’m pretty sure I lived life to the full. I was out a lot, sometimes all night, sometimes for nights on end. With work friends, College friends. Euro ’96 was a great ride. 


It was also probably the lowest point in my life. I was young and I was hurting. I had broken up with my girlfriend and I took the easy way out. I still loved her, but she didn't love me and moved on. Making it more complicated was the fact we lived together in an apartment that we had bought together. So I had to watch while she moved on and even started dating. 


I slept on sofas in Ealing, on spare beds in Streatham and Clapham. All to avoid going home to face the music. One night, I didn't even sleep - out all night then straight into work the following morning. I slept on night buses and missed my stop, ending up at Heathrow at two or three in the morning. But I had some great friends who looked after me. 


My best mate Tony was going through the same and we looked after each other on wild nights out. Brixton was a regular haunt and when the night was drawing to a close, we ended up wherever would take us. On more than one occasion, we ended up at a basement gay club add we even got into the swing of things by taking off our shirts on the dancefloor - apparently a sign that we were open for business. But aside from a few propositions (one while in the toilets), no harm done. We would leave around 5am and work our way home. One time, we sat on the train platform with our legs dangling over the ledge eating the best Jamaican Jerk Chicken ever. It was so good that we didn't notice the train approaching and only a mad roll backwards onto the platform saved our legs. 


Steve helped me out too - we met up for the semi-final of Euro '96 and it was good to have a friend around to get through nights like that. My work mates were great too - they knew both parties and could see what I was going through but helped me through the worst of it.   


The job came up during the summer and I applied straightaway. Macau. In those days you didn’t just ‘look it up’. If you had an encyclopedia at home you looked it up when you got there. If you didn’t, you bought a book or went to the library. You might wait days or weeks before you found out. Your books might be old too – maybe 10 years out of date. I just knew where it was – close to Hong Kong. I can still feel the excitement of finding out about places via a book. Your mind conjured up all sorts of ideas about what it was like.


As for the job, my boss Dave Banks helped me out big-time and persuaded his counterpart to do the right thing and hire me. Even though he had reservations, he took pity on me and I got the job around August, but didn’t leave ‘till late November 1996. It was a long time coming. 


It rescued me to be honest as I was out of control. Drink-driving was a habit. I was living in Twickenham, so would drive to Richmond tube on my nights out. The temptation was always to pick up the car on the way home, very worse for wear. That was common. I'd do the same back home too, there were weddings and nights out that I'd drive to and end up driving home. One on occasion, after a full day's drinking from around 11am to 1am. It was just too easy and I'd even try to take more risks while driving just to show off to myself. Then there was one Sunday morning after Damon Hill was crowned F1 Champion. After a very heavy night watching the Japanese GP, we slept at my place and made the worst decision when someone asked for a lift home. I deliberately drove on pavements, the wrong way around roundabouts and generally tore the roads apart. I was out of control. I knew I had to leave otherwise I would end up in prison. 


By the time I left, my girlfriend wanted to get back together, to get married, to get pregnant. That made it even harder, but I pushed through and left. I took one suitcase and left my life behind. I left a bit of a mess behind to be honest, a flat that I co-owned, a car that I pawned off onto my Dad. They all came through though and sorted it out for me though.


The only date I had to be back for was September 1997, my brother’s wedding. So I had about 9 months to get through. Maybe I’d give it a year. Twenty five and counting.